Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area
& National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by Jim Mason

"Marsh of the Swans" is what the early French trappers named the river from which this wetland emerged. Prehistoric-looking paddlefish make spring spawning runs in the river up to a low-water dam at Osawatomie.   However, this site is best known for its abundant waterfowl - as many as 150,000 birds during fall and spring migrations.

Common ducks include mallards, northern pintails, widgeons, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwalls, scaup, northern shovelers, and ring-necked ducks. Wood ducks and Canada geese nest in the area. Greater white-fronted geese and snow geese also stop. Including waterfowl, over 300 species of birds make this area popular with birders. Herons, egrets, eagles, shorebirds, hawks, and songbirds are plentiful.

Visitors should pick up a map at the headquarters located on U.S. 69 about 1 mile north of Trading Post. The lake in Unit B, just west of the headquarters, is a great location to see large flocks of Canada geese and ducks as well as wintering bald eagles. From the headquarters, proceed south past Trading Post and cross the Marais des Cygnes River. Just south of the river, follow the gravel road west into the wildlife area as it passes next to the lake in Unit A. This is the largest pool in the area and is excellent for viewing great blue herons, white pelicans, and double-crested cormorants. In about 3 miles you will reach the small town of Boicourt. Prior to crossing the railroad tracks, turn north and follow the road as it parallels the river. During spring migration the steep woodlands are home to a variety of birds, including vireos, flycatchers, tanagers, orioles, and, sometimes, pileated woodpeckers. Over 30 species of warblers have been found here. A mile north of Boicourt lies Unit G of the wildlife area. The many stumps and trees protruding from the water's surface create ideal habitat for wood ducks, prothonotary warblers, migrating ospreys, and nesting tree swallows.

In addition to the wetland, there are many areas with woodlands and open fields. Alert visitors may spot deer, gray foxes, turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels. Southern flying squirrels are also found here but are seldom seen. In late October and early November the fall colors of the trees on the hillsides are spectacular. For the reptile lover, there are many kinds of water turtles and snakes active in the warmer seasons.

The Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge adjoins the Wildlife Area.  It lies primarily on the east side of U.S. 69 Highway. 


Boat ramps, Pit toilets.

Camping icon Primitive camping in the Wildlife Area only. 
           Camping is not allowed in the Refuge.

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Trail icon No developed trails, but the levee access roads provide hiking opportunities.

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find a birding list for Linn County.

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Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area is near the Frontier Military Scenic Byway.

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Location in KansasDirections: Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area and the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge are located along U.S. 69, 5 miles north of Pleasanton. The headquarters building for the Wildlife Area is about 1 mile north of the small town of Trading Post.  The refuge office is one mile east of the intersection of U.S. 69 and K-52 on the south side of the road.
For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area is the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.  Contact KDWP at (913) 352-8941 if you have specific questions about use or management of the wildlife area.
You may download the KDWPT brochure on Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area from their web site.

7,332 acres

The entity responsible for management of the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Contact them at (913) 352-8956 if you have specific questions about the use or management of the refuge.
Visit their website for more information.

7,500 acres

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Funded by the Chickadee Checkoff Program
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The Natural Kansas web site © 2011 by
the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism